Originally Posted by velochic
I was so proud about how much money we've been saving on our heating bill this winter by burning wood in our wood-burning stove and keeping the gas heat off. ... I've finally tallied it all up, including the cost of purchasing wood, and it really comes out to being close to even. ... I was really disappointed. I thought it would be a huge savings for the effort. I guess the only way to really save is to cut it yourself (not going to happen for us - no renewal source of wood).
It was also nice that the fellow we bought wood from has a 90 acre tree farm, is registered with the DNR and cuts only already fallen trees and trees that are part of a 100% replacement plan.
ETA: The going rate for a "rick" or 4' X 8' rack of 18" to 24" -long pieces is about $70 on average. We were easily burning through 2 ricks a month.
I'd feel good about the fact that wood heat is more carbon neutral.
I'm surprised you didn't save more. Where I live wood is generally sold by the cord which is measures approximately twice as large as a "rick". A cord is 4x4x8 or 128 sf as opposed to 4x4x2 (I rounded up from 1.5 to simplify the math) or 64 sf. A cord costs approximately $250.00 in the greater Boston area. I would love to be able to find wood for what it seems to cost you; then I'd be paying about $140.00 a cord.
I'm wondering if you are getting "shorted". Do you pick up or is it delivered? Do you actually stack it to make sure it is the volume you paid for? If so, how tightly is it packed?
Do you know what species the wood is or whether it is hard wood versus soft wood? Hard wood has more btus since it is heavier.
Also, how well seasoned is it. For the price you are paying I strongly suspect it was cut recently. Generally wood should be dried for at least 6 months or so and the moisture content should be 20% or less. If the moisture content is high you lose a lot of heat burning the moisture off and some of that heat goes up the pipe in the form of steam. You might want to invest in a moisture meter. If you have the room to store the wood you should ask the Seller if there is an off season price and you could buy it now and store it over the Spring/Summer to season.
How old is your stove? If it predates the early 80s there is a good chance it is a non EPA approved stove. Generally EPA stoves are more efficient which means you burn less wood for the same amount of heat. Although there are some older stoves that are surprisingly efficient if they are run properly (e.g.: with well seasoned wood).
Does it have a catalytic converter? If so, do you have any idea how old it is and when it was last cleaned or replaced? Catalytic converters are one way of getting a stove to burn particles that would otherwise go up the pipe. So it burns cleaner and you get more heat value out of it. If the cat is damaged then you are losing heat that way. Cats aren't necessarily cheap, although generic ones are available which lowers the price, but you will save money in the long run if you replace a damaged Cat.
There are other maintenance and repair issues that can improve performance.
If you are interested in learning more about stoves, stove set ups, the best way to "run" them, etc. below is a link to a good resource. It's a forum like this one where you can post all the details about your stove, where it's set up, how it's vented, etc. and get feedback on how to improve performance. A picture can be invaluable too.
You can also get safety tips and learn about how to stack wood and cover it so it can dry properly. And there are some other forums with energy saving tips in general.
Hearthtalk: Woodburning Hearth Forumhttp://www.hearthtalk.com/viewforum....ea2e2aa6df9f70
One more thought, you can supplement the cost of your wood by checking Craig's list. Occasionally you'll find free wood listed. I have seen a couple of listings myself but haven't gotten lucky yet. Another source is wood pallets (not pellets, but pallets used for stacking on). The key is to make sure they are untreated, especially if you have a catalytic stove since the chemicals used to treat wood will damage the Cat. (For that matter, while it may be ok to burn plain paper or cardboard in a Cat stove you don't want any colored or coated paper.
Pallets tend to be dry so they can work well with unseasoned wood. They require some effort since you need to break the pallets down and you may want to remove the nails or sift the ash after if you plan on using the ash in your yard or garden so that involves some work.
Anyways, I wouldn't give up just yet until you have a better idea of what kind of stove you have and whether some simple maintenance or tips on how to run it better might improve performance.
ETA - Where do you live? Two ricks (approximately one cord) isn't much for the month of January even if you are only supplementing your heat by about half.
Good luck, ~Cath